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Bahnhof Lette

Eisenbahnmuseum

The old Railway Station at Lette (near Coesfeld)

If German Railways (DB) had had it their way, the old country station at Lette would have been long since demolished. After its closure, when an automatic ticket-machine had replaced helpful people, when the last goods traffic was put onto the road, one of the last historic buildings of the village of Lette and an exemplary piece of Westphalian railway architecture was to be torn down. But a small group of rail-enthusiasts (officially registered since May 22nd 1990) was able to preserve the station together with its railway surroundings and the unique timbered gatekeeper’s hut No.43. These buildings were then protected as listed buildings.

Once upon a time the villagers of Lette had stood up for a railway station in their village. In 1874 the Dortmund-Gronau-Enschede railway- company (DGEE) started building the line from Dortmund via Coesfeld to Enschede (in the end this line would cost around 7 million German Talers). The line from Dülmen-East via Lette to Coesfeld was finished on August 1st 1875. The whole line with a length of 95,68 km was opened for traffic on September 30th 1875. The ruins of an old castle had to make way for the railway at Lette. At first the railway company only wanted to build a small railwayman’s hut at Lette. Thus all the trains would have passed Lette without stopping. In order to get a halt, though, the villagers paid the large sum of 1.000 Talers and gave away the land for free for the new station and its sidings.

At the end of the 19th century the brick-lined station-building was built. After the turn of the century the signal-box and the goods station were added. Though being only a small country station in the rural Westmünsterland Lette’s station building included its own pub. Unfortunately, this was closed when on June 1st 1903 the KPEV (Royal Prussian Railways) took over the DGEE (Dortmund-Gronau-Enschede railway company) which was one of the last private companies to fight nationalization right to the end.

Around 1907 the country halt at Lette was upgraded as station (“Bahnhof”) and got a second platform, so that trains could cross, enhanced signalling equipment and a loading track. At this time Lette even had its own crew of gangers for railway-maintenance. The railway had become an important factor for the rendition of services and employment in the small village. Lette was an independent station from 1908 till 1959 with its very own Station Master, then it was put under the control of Coesfeld station. The last railway employees had to quit on October 23rd 1990, since then Lette has been only an unstaffed halt of the Dortmund-Enschede line.

Through the railway Lette was just not connected to a transport system, but also to the whole world. The railway line served for passenger traffic, so that workmen and miners could get fast to the Ruhr area, especially to Dortmund, then naturally for goods traffic too.

The first timetable dating from August 1st 1875 showed three pairs of trains. During the Great War trains with troops and wounded soldiers of the Imperial army passed through Lette. During the time of peace till the outbreak of World War II in 1939 the Reichsbahndirektion (Reichsbahn regional head office) Münster offered a service of 8 pairs of trains (2nd and 3rd class). The allied air-raids during World War II also claimed their victims at Lette, the station suffered only minor machine-gun damage though (still visible today). In spring 1945 German railways resumed their services. When the old German Reichsbahn was taken over by the Deutsche Bundesbahn in 1949, fifteen trains ran in both directions.

Till the 1960s steam still prevailed on the line. DB used the classes 24 2-6-0, 38.10 4-6-0 (Prussian P8), 50 2-10-0 and 78 2-6-2T (Prussian T18). Then the Diesel took over completely (mostly V100 class 211/212 locomotives, the occasional V60 class 260/261 locomotive and DMUs VT24 624/634, sometimes battery-driven multiple units ETA 150/515 appeared, later the 628 DMUs. Nowadays its only Talent DMUs one might see.

When the Bundesbahndirektion (Bundesbahn regional head office) Münster was dissolved in 1975 Lette belonged to the BD Essen. Nowadays 16 pairs of trains are run by the Prignitzer railway company on DB-owned track between Dortmund, Gronau and Enschede.

Till today the threat of line-closure could be prevented. In order to keep the Westmünsterlandbahn running one only has to do one thing: Use it! And often.

During the 1950s the railway handled most of the goods and thus made its contribution to life in the country. Since June 1993 goods have no longer been carried to and from Lette by rail.

The railways did not just bring progress with them, but also the danger of accidents. Not only were cattle caught by the trains, but human beings also suffered injuries or even death. To prevent collisions with more and more traffic on the railway-crossings, gates were installed and keeper’s huts. Only one of the four gatekeeper’s huts of Lette has survived the planned demolition (Posten 43), an example for the once typical, but now even in Westphalia hard to find mechanical gate with its external crank lever. As the old building was too decrepit a new one with its exact measurements was erected in the museum’s garden to bear witness to the development of railway safety and to the working conditions of railwaymen in the old days.

The Railway-Museum

Since 1990 the old railway-station has become a gem and a point of attraction at Lette. Many and various exhibitions have been prepared for the different rooms the station can offer, which are appealing to young and old and which are throwing light on old and new aspects of railway history as well as transport problems.

The ever growing collection of railwayana comprises model-railways, historical plates, photographs, books, magazines, documents, maps, drawings, ticket-punchers, uniforms, caps, hats, posters, signal-lanterns, parts of steam-locomotives, tools and much more. One railwayman’s cap even came from as far as Thailand.

Special features of the museum are rare finds: During sewerage works in the industrial zone of Coesfeld on January 7th 1992 quite unexpectedly a relic of the disastrous time of World War II came to light again: a driving-wheel of a steam locomotive, which was severely damaged by bombs. The 14 spokes and the diameter of 1,40 m are pointing to a Prussian 0-10-0 two-cylindered goods-engine class G 10 (DR/DB-class 57.10-40). In 1998/99 other different parts were retrieved from bomb-craters: amongst them a French wheel-set and half a Russian goods-wagon.

On May 21st 2000 a monument for the 130 fallen railwaymen of both World Wars was erected in the museum’s garden. Three big semaphore-signals were installed there as well as a telephone-hut. The former gate of Posten 43 is put next to a short stretch of railway-line. The cab of 52 8185 and parts of the boiler of 52 8119 will be put on display together with all original fittings, controls and instruments to show the working conditions of driver and fireman on the footplate of the big 2-10-0 Kriegslok, rebuilt by the East German Reichsbahn.

In the station’s basement a large model railway layout is being worked on. In another cellar the archive with all the collected railway documents found its new home.

On the siding next to the goods station the trailer of a DB-DMU VB 142 526 (995 526-1) functions as a cafeteria. A Prussian G10 goods-wagon is our workshop, a 1950s DB wagon serves as storage-room for the museum, another one for a local rent-a-bicycle. The oldest wagon of 1882 vintage carries a container with more bicycles. The longest and heaviest wagon was donated by a Coesfeld metal-working firm. Next to it our Diesel locomotive Kö 4731, named Hermann and built in 1934, is currently being restored to running order.

The railway enthusiasts created new traditions: The first of many railway-fetes around the station was celebrated on May 16th 1993, when a steam special with an oilfired 2-8-2 class, 41 241, stopped at Lette.

The museum was officially opened on June 4th 1994.

The expositions in the waiting-room and the old office-room carried different themes:

  • A cross-section of railway-history
  • Fascination: Children and the railway
  • Happy travelling on the railways
  • War on the line: The railway as helper and victim of war
  • There shall be light: The railways fighting against the dark
  • Best wishes by rail: Historical railway-postcards for Christmas and the New Year
  • Coesfeld: her railways and her railwaymen
  • Trains which never arrived: Accidents and the prevention of accidents on the railways
  • The Great World of small Railways
  • The History of the Timetable in Germany 1835 1998
  • Trains draw attention: Great show of railway-uniforms
  • When cigarette packets still carried cards: The Railway on trading cards
  • From the motherland of railways: English model locomotives
  • The Railway in Childrens books: Henriette Bimmelbahn, Thomas the Tank Engine and their companions
  • The World of model-railways
  • Treasures with teeth: The Railway on stamps
  • Bella Figura: Miniature men and animals round the model railway
  • The Railways in Paintings
  • The Railways in Book Art
  • Nostalgic Super-8-Films: The Bundesbahn in the 1970s
  • Steam, Diesel and Electric Current Slideshow
  • Good times bad times: Documents and photographs about the fates of railwaymen
  • Great wide Steam World: Slideshow
  • Railway Memories: Nostalgic films
  • 50 years of Trans Europ Express
  • Aesthetics of the old railway (artistic photographs)
  • Cinema-Trains. The Railway in the Movies
  • The year of railway-jubilees. 175 years German Railways. 135 years Dortmund-Gronau-Enscheder railway company. 100 years Coesfeld railway station. 20 years railway enthusiasts at Lette.
  • The steam-locomotives of the Reichsbahn class 52.
  • Fascination: Children and the railway.
  • Let there be light! The railways fighting against darkness.
  • War on the rails - the railways as helpers and victims of war.
  • Railway uniforms yesterday and today.
  • With clockwork or electricity. The charm of the model railway.
  • Service by rail - railwaymen from Lette in the course of time

In the evening on each first Sunday in Advent since 1994 P. Daniel Hörnemann has been reading a selection of railway-related stories in the cosy atmosphere created by a candle-lit Christmas-tree, historic railway oil-lights, gingerbread and mulled wine.

A small group of railway enthusiasts are giving their time to keep the
museum and its artefacts in good shape. They meet every ednesday evening from 17h. New members are always welcome! There is also a group of youngsters - keen model-railway-builders.

The museum is normally open on each first Sunday of the month (15-18h). Additionally groups may apply for guided tours with Wilhelm Farwick (tel. 02541- 6986).

In the goods shed we are keeping a large selection of spare railway books, posters, artefacts, timetables, official paperwork etc. etc. for sale or exchange. If interested, please, apply for a list via e-mail.

© Translated by P. Dr. Daniel Hörnemann

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